The 10 U.S. States Bordering the Mississippi River

A historic trip along the second longest river in North America

Steamboat River Boat Natchez docked on the Mississippi River in New Orleans French quarter

 Edwin Remsberg/Getty Images

The Mississippi River is the largest system of rivers in the United States, and it is the world's fourth largest river system. In total, the river is 2,320 miles (3,734 km) long, and its drainage basin covers an area of 1,151,000 square miles (2,981,076 sq km). The source of the Mississippi River is Lake Itasca in Minnesota, and the mouth of the river is the Gulf of Mexico. There are also a number of large and small tributaries of the river, some of which include the Ohio, Missouri, and Red Rivers (all are visible on this map).

In total, the Mississippi River drains about 41 percent of the United States and borders 10 different states. The following is a list of the 10 states in order from north to south. For reference, the area, population and capital city of each state have been included. The population estimates are from the U.S. Census Bureau as of July 1, 2017.


Skyline, St Paul, Minnesota

Don Romero/Getty Images 

  • Area: 79,610 square miles (206,190 sq km)
  • Population: 5,576,606
  • Capital: St. Paul

The headwaters of the Mississippi River have historically been noted as being located in Lake Itasca in the northern part of the state, but geologists have raised the question as to whether the river actually ​​starts in South Dakota.


Aerial of Mississippi River, La Crosse, WI

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  • Area: 54,310 square miles (140,673 sq km)
  • Population: 5,795,483
  • Capital: Madison

Wisconsin, which has 33 river towns, and four other states comanage the Upper Mississippi River, which includes about 1,250 miles (2,012 km) of the Mississippi's length. On the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, the river runs through a scenic bluff area.


Mississippi river

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  • Area: 56,272 square miles (145,743 sq km)
  • Population: 3,145,711
  • Capital: Des Moines

Iowa has several cities at which people can gamble on the water on riverboats, and almost half of them are on the Mississippi: Burlington, Bettendorf, Clinton, Davenport, Dubuque, and Marquette.


Alton Bridge Over Mississippi River, Illinois, USA

 Danita Delimont/Getty Images

  • Area: 55,584 square miles (143,963 sq km)
  • Population: 12,802,023
  • Capital: Springfield

Illinois has the largest population among all the Mississippi River border states but not the most total area. The Lower Mississippi River begins at Cairo, Illinois.


St. Louis Arch Beyond Eads Bridge at Sunset

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  • Area: 68,886 square miles (178,415 sq km)
  • Population: 6,113,532
  • Capital: Jefferson City

The Great River Road extends from Canada to New Orleans, Louisiana. In Missouri's section you can learn about Mark Twain in Hannibal, Missouri, visit St. Louis, see where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi, visit nature centers, and learn about Missouri's earthquakes in 1811–1812 in New Madrid.


Freight train traveling on bridge, Ohio River near Mississippi River junction, Kentucky, USA

 Danita Delimont/Getty Images

  • Area: 39,728 square miles (102,896 sq km)
  • Population: 4,454,189
  • Capital: Frankfort

Known as the "Kentucky Bend," a portion of Kentucky bordered by the Mississippi River is accessible by land only through Tennessee. When surveyors were deliniating the border between the two states, they had only estimated where the the Mississippi would meet their border. The snaking of the river at that point created a peninsula that turned out, then, to belong to Kentucky when the surveys were finalized.


Tennessee, Nashville, Maybe Bob Dylan was on to something: The Mississippi River flows by the Nashville Skyline at dawn.

Dean Dixon/Getty Images 

  • Area: 41,217 square miles (106,752 sq km)
  • Population: 6,715,984
  • Capital: Nashville

A Tennessee trip down the Mississippi ends in Memphis, after traveling through bluff country, land with majestic cypress trees, and past the site of a Civil War battle, now Fort Pillow State Park.


Mud Island River Park, Hernando de Soto Bridge across Mississippi River to Arkansas.

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  • Area: 52,068 square miles (134,856 sq km)
  • Population: 3,004,279
  • Capital: Little Rock

In Arkansas, the Mississippi River crosses the Delta region of the South. There are no fewer than four state parks along the state's river frontage as well a museums as diverse as the World War II Japanese American Internment Museum and a historic plantation home.


River boat casino on Mississippi river

 Franz Aberham/Getty Images

  • Area: 46,907 square miles (121,489 sq km)
  • Population: 2,984,100
  • Capital: Jackson

Mississippi's extensive river region is the birthplace of the Delta blues (and contains Delta swamps, bayous, and wetlands). You can also visit the site of an important Civil War battle, at Vicksburg.   


Paddlewheeler Pier at Dusk

Richard Cummins/Getty Images 

  • Area: 43,562 square miles (112,826 sq km)
  • Population: 4,684,333
  • Capital: Baton Rouge 

Historic Louisiana cities Baton Rouge and New Orleans, one of the oldest cities in the United States outside of New England, are Mississippi River cities; it's below New Orleans where the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The river is deepest at Algiers Point in New Orleans.